This column first appeared on Reaction.Life.

Eurovision – The Story of Fire Saga, Netflix

I’ve never quite understood the appeal of Will Ferrell, so it was with some degree of trepidation that I decided to take the advice of several friends who had seen “Eurovision” within hours of it being released on Netflix late last week.

Let me get an admission out of the way first. I love Eurovision. I’ve been to the Eurovision Song Contest twice. I have 1,023 Eurovision song contest songs on a Eurovision playlist on my phone. The politics and voting patterns in the contest fascinate me. I remember watching Abba sing Waterloo in Brighton in 1974 as an eleven-year-old and immediately wanting to go out to the record shop and buy every single or LP they had ever made. Five years later I saw them in concert at Wembley Arena.

And that’s exactly the way “Eurovision” starts, with an Icelandic family, gathered around the TV, watching Abba strut their stuff. It immediately captures the imagination of the young Lars (Will Ferrell), who is roused from his slumbers on the stairs to dance in front of the TV, much to the disapproval of his father (Pierce Brosnan). From then on, he has only one aim in life: to appear at the Eurovision Song Contest. And he achieves his dream (which turns into a nightmare) in the culmination of a plot which makes Mamma Mia seem like a documentary.

Even though I enjoyed this rollercoaster of a film, there was something sub-creepy about Ferrell’s character and performance. Maybe it was the authenticity, but it was full-on cringe. It was like he was reprising a role as a 52-year old virgin. When we’d finished watching it, I turned to my partner and asked him what he thought. He hated it – but then again, he is the only gay man in the world to hate Eurovision with a passion that only exceeds his passion for buying clapped out second-hand Minis.

When I watch TV dramas about politics and Westminster it irritates me when they make an error of fact, procedure or language. And the same applies to Eurovision: Iceland didn’t broadcast the contest until 1983, so the opening scene couldn’t have happened? I know, I know, dramatic licence and all that, but it still irritates me. Will Ferrell’s singing partner, Sigrit (Rachel McAdams), also appears in the opening scene, although by 2020 she seems to have aged dramatically more slowly than him. Sigrid is also in love with Lars, despite possible being half-siblings. Cringe.

I could go on about the improbabilities in the staging… the fictional contest was held in Edinburgh, yet in 2019 the Netherlands won the contest, so they would have staged it. In fact, the contest scenes weren’t filmed in Edinburgh at all; they took place at Glasgow’s Hydro Arena. To add insult to injury the Swedish contender had seven people on stage when the Eurovision rules state there can only be six and Sigrit and Lars entry lasts 3 minutes 22 seconds, 22 seconds more than the maximum. Yes, I really am a geek, aren’t I? But these things matter!

At over two hours in length, this film is probably at least twenty minutes too long, but it doesn’t seem it. As the plot becomes ever more preposterous, you never start watching the clock. Indeed, when it ended, I found myself wanting more. So, I did what any self-respecting Eurovision fan would do, and downloaded the 17-song soundtrack. And that, dear reader, is what I am listening to as I type this. Ja Ja Ding Dong. #IBelieveInElves

Westmonster News Podcast

Presented by former Brexit Party MEPs and professional controversialists Michael Heaver and Martin Daubney, this podcast purports to provide an alternative to what they contemptuously refer to as the “Mainstream Media”. Boooooo. Hiss. Heaver and Daubney are both entertaining coves and likeable characters, but they come across in this podcast as slightly angry young men.

This latest episode starts with the boys reading laudatory emails with 5 Star Reviews. At this point, I thought the ghost of Jon Gaunt might emerge to serenade us, but it would be cruel to describe this as a Jon Gaunt Tribute Act.

Their first non-mainstream media news story was the fact that the Immigration Bill had passed its Commons stages and that Freedom of Movement was at an end. Nope, never read anything about that in the MSM. No Sireee.

Then came the V-shaped recovery prediction from the Bank of England. Nope, didn’t hear that covered on any news bulletin either, obvs. To be fair they reckoned it wasn’t covered on either the BBC or ITV News at Ten, which it clearly merited, but it certainly did appear in most of the national papers and I remember covering it in my business bulletin that day.

They then move on to Black Lives Matter. Now, have we heard anything about that in the MSM in recent weeks? Now let me think… They discuss the left-wing, nay Marxist nature of the BLM movement, and quite right too. But hardly ground-breaking stuff. Having said that, Martin Daubney made an original point about the FA being fined £35,000 when England wore poppies on their shorts in Remembrance week following a ban on political statements. Daubney contrasted this with the wearing of the BLM slogans not just on the sleeves of footballers’ shirts, but all across the back.

Theresa May criticising Michael Gove about the appointment of David Frost as National Security Adviser was their next target of attack. Suffice it to say neither of them was impressed. They rather liked the man they call “Frosty the No Man”. Laugh? I nearly split my sides. And then they finish as they started: praising themselves.

The lads then tantalise us with the prospect of a “major new development” in building an entirely new podcast community “full of like-minded people”. And that’s the problem with podcasts like this. Their only aim is to speak to people in their echo chamber, completely ignoring those who don’t wholly subscribe to their Weltanschauung.

It’s just like in America. If you’re on the right, you watch Fox News. If you’re on the left, you watch MSNBC. There is nothing wrong with opinionated news and opinionated podcasts, but there needs to be some sort of challenging discussion rather than just mindless agreement. Otherwise, it is tedious and turns into what could be called “masturcasting”.

I think I just invented a new word.